Credit Unions for Kids Skybridge Represents Collaboration and Refocus on Mission

Click here to find out how your credit union can get involved with the turnkey Credit Unions for Kids resources.

Seattle’s Safeco Field, home of the Mariners, holds just north of 54,000 people. The amount of patients who received care at Seattle Children’s Hospital could fill that stadium multiple times over.

And that includes those receiving uncompensated care—care for patients who otherwise would not be able to afford it—which is important to keep in mind when you talk to Peninsula Credit Union CEO Jim Morrell, and Jason Elliott, CFO of Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union, about Credit Unions for Kids.

The charity that was started right here in the Northwest three decades ago directs funds to the Children’s Miracle Network of hospitals, of which Seattle Children’s belongs. Morrell and Elliott co-chair the Credit Unions for Kids Ambassador Advisory Group for Seattle Children’s Hospital. They will also be among those celebrating the naming of the Credit Unions for Kids Skybridge at the hospital on June 29. The event is in recognition of a five-year, $1 million fundraising commitment.

Unless otherwise noted, all of those funds raised will go to uncompensated care.

“It’s almost surreal to see the impact in-person,” Elliott noted. “It’s one thing to send a check. But when you get on the ground-level and see what these programs support. It’s sobering and makes it more real. It boils down to, it’s either someone in your family or someone you know. That’s a big number.”

On its face, a $1 million commitment seems a tough hill to climb. But Elliott described planning based on years’ past, and building on previous fund raising. Morrell hinted toward starting small, and the ability for any credit union to participate by pulling together often-disparate resources.

“One of the opportunities I saw when I started with Peninsula was to grab hold of this common effort that credit unions have utilized to make a difference in how families’ financial households deal with that significant financial burden,” he said. “For example, staff are contributing $2.50 for wearing jeans on paydays. Our health care provider matches that, so we’re at $5. We use the CO-OP Miracle Match to double that and make it $10.”

Further indulging the scenario, Morrell stretched the dollars raised from that one simple exercise over multiple pay periods. Combining that with local business and franchise partnerships, suddenly leads a smaller credit union to have an outsized impact.

“We (Peninsula) aren’t in a position to make an individual contribution as larger credit unions can,” he noted, before adding that combining and focusing fundraising allows smaller outfits to participate in a different way, adding that CULAC can be matched, dollar-for-dollar by that credit union.

“Medical bills are a leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S.


Through Credit Unions for Kids, we are positioned to help families prepare for those situations ahead of time & avoid financial catastrophe.”

– Jim Morrell, CEO, Pennisula Credit Union

By bringing these conversations under one umbrella, Morrell hopes to change the conversation around how credit unions think about Credit Unions for Kids.

“All of us are getting more and more requests for funds, and it’s become a struggle for us to filter out what the common theme is,” Morrell added, before pointing to financial education as an example.

“Take health care costs, which multiple reports have indicated are a leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. The rise in those costs have created a significant gap between the hospital’s actual cost of providing care and what insurance and Medicaid reimburse.”

As that gap widens, it’s easy to see how reliance on charities like Credit Unions for Kids would continue to grow. However, fundraising is only one piece of the work.

“It goes beyond the cost of insurance,” Morrell said. “Say somebody has a child and both parents are working. If that child is in Seattle Children’s for the next four months, one of those parents needs to take off a significant amount of time or quit their job. Now that’s a one-income household, not even taking into account the cost of care.”

If Credit Unions for Kids fills enough of that gap, Morrell described a scenario where members can be prepared rather than coming back to the credit union after financial catastrophe to refinance their home or car to pay off medical bill.

“We can do that together as credit unions if we unite behind one cause”

Credit Unions for Kids has had unintended ripple effects, outside of fundraising, too.

“It’s something I take home with me and I talk to my kids about,” added Elliott. “It’s gotten to the point where my 12-year-old is volunteering for things on his own.”

Thinking of the Safeco Field image again, the plan comes into sharper focus. 54,000 fans don’t just show up on any given game day and appear in their seats. Tickets are sold and they enter the stadium one at a time. It sounds like Credit Unions for Kids can succeed using the same approach.

“If Peninsula can raise $5,000-to-7,000 per year on a consistent basis—and if we can do that for four years, hopefully a lot of folks can raise $5,000. And if 20 credit unions can raise $5,000 by, say, putting coin collectors on their teller counters, that would be $100,000. We’re almost halfway to where we need to be when we project that out. And if the past few years continues, we’re almost where we need to be in terms of generating that. We just need to step it up a little bit more.”

Interested in participating? The Credit Unions for Kids Gala Auction at the MAXX Convention in October is taking requests now for stars the new Walk of Stars. Contact Carmen Vigil, NWCUA Community Manager, to find out more, at or 206.340.4817.

Questions about this story? Contact Eric Horvath: 503.350.2222,

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